As just a par 70, Atlanta Athletic Club certainly a beast

By Associated PressAugust 10, 2011, 11:02 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Tiger Woods posed over his approach into the 18th green Wednesday morning as the ball descended toward the flag and the crowd began to murmur with anticipation.

Splash!

This was only his final practice round for the PGA Championship. Imagine facing this shot with a one-shot lead Sunday afternoon, not having Woods’ power, and it starts to make sense why David Toms laid up with a wedge 10 years ago.

Only it’s not just the closing hole at Atlanta Athletic Club.

In what ranks as most of the more difficult closing stretches in championship golf, the last four holes feature a pair of par 3s over water, including one that measures 260 yards on the scorecard. The shorter par 4 is only 476 yards, but is entirely uphill. The closing hole is 507 yards that bends to the left and has a lake in front of the green

“I don’t think there’s another stretch that I can remember that’s this difficult coming in,” Woods said. “You have two long par 4s going uphill, you’ve got a par 3 in which more guys will be hitting lumber, and obviously 18 being as tight as it for as long as it is, it’s a hell of a test coming in.

“If you play those four holes per day, those 16 holes even par, you’ll be picking up a ton of shots on the guys.”

It was difficult enough in 2001, and now they are a combined 85 yards longer.

They played a key part of the PGA Championship the last time it came to Atlanta Athletic Club. The 15th hole is where Toms made an ace with his 5-wood in the third round to take the lead. Of course, the hole was only 227 yards back then.

“First of all, 5-wood is not going to be enough club for me,” Toms said.

The 16th hole is where Phil Mickelson heard a fan shout out Sunday afternoon that his long birdie putt was slower than it looked. Mickelson ran it by some 8 feet and three-putted for bogey, a lost stroke that he never got back and finished second.

On the 18th hole, Toms had a 5-wood from the light rough to clear the water. Instead, he laid up with a wedge, hit another to 12 feet and make the putt to win his only major.

Ten years later, not much has changed as far as the test that awaits when the final major gets under way Thursday.

“We were talking at lunch, if you had to par the last four holes to win the PGA Championship, it’s going to be a tough road,” Toms said. “Those last four holes are very, very difficult now.”

That’s where most majors are decided, anyway.

Martin Kaymer thought the finishing stretch at the PGA Championship was among the toughest he had ever seen, with a pair of par 4s at least 500 yards, and a 223-yard par 3 for the 17th.

Then he came to Atlanta Athletic Club.

“Whistling Straits, the last four holes, I think they played a little bit easier because there was no water involved,” Kaymer said. “There was always some room for misses. I would rather play the last four holes at Whistling Straits. They were a lot more difficult here.”

It’s not just the closing stretch on the Highlands course at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Rees Jones overhauled the course for this PGA, and it now measures 7,467 yards, the longest in major championship history for a par 70.

The good news is that it might not play that long. For one thing, PGA officials are contemplating moving the tees forward on two of the par 4s, one on each nine. Plus, with temperatures in the 90s and an immaculate course with fairways that could be running fast, players might get ample distance.

Dustin Johnson, one of the longest hitters in golf, hit driver on the 18th and had a 9-iron into the green.

“It doesn’t play that long,” McIlroy said of the entire course. “The ball is going so far because it’s so hot. I mean, you’re hitting 7-irons nearly 200 yards. I don’t think it plays the 7,400 yards that’s on the card.”

If there is one hole getting plenty of attention, it’s the 15th. A new tee makes the hole play as long as 260 yards, among the longest ever for a par 3 in a major. Oakmont had the par-3 eighth that could play - and did play in the final round of the 2007 U.S. Open - around 300 yards. But it didn’t have a pond hugging the right side and front corner of the green.

“Cunning par 3, isn’t it,” Clarke said of the 15th.

Like so many other players, he doesn’t understand why architects have failed to notice the best par 3s are the shortest, whether it’s the 106-yard seventh hole at Pebble Beach or the 155-yard 12th at Augusta National or the famed “Postage Stamp” hole at Royal Troon, which is 123 yards of sheer terror.

“At some stage, they’re going to realize length is not the way to toughen a golf course,” Clarke said.

So how does one play a 260-yard par 3.

“I don’t know,” Clarke said. “A 3-wood and hit it well or it will be a redo. Because balls don’t float.”

Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell summed up the length at Atlanta Athletic Club by suggesting it would be a good week for 3-woods and hybrids.

As for the longest par on the course? He shrugged.

“There’s no need for 260 yards on a par 3, but we’re becoming quite used to them. I couldn’t really tell you a par 3 I love that’s over 220 yards.”

Getty Images

Watch: Woods uses computer code to make robotic putt

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 3:10 pm

Robots have been plotting their takeover of the golf world for some time.

First it was talking trash to Rory McIlroy, then it was making a hole-in-one at TPC Scottsdale's famous 16th hole ... and now they're making putts for Tiger Woods.

Woods tweeted out a video on Tuesday draining a putt without ever touching the ball:

The 42-year-old teamed up with a computer program to make the putt, and provided onlookers with a vintage Tiger celebration, because computers can't do that ... yet.

Getty Images

Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:35 pm

There was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.

Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.

“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”

While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.

When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”

Getty Images

Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2018, 12:03 pm

Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.

Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.

Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.

"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."

The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.

While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.

"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."

For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes:

Getty Images

Davies takes 2-shot lead into final round of Senior LPGA

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2018, 2:00 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies recovered from a pair of early bogeys Tuesday for a 2-under 70 that gave her a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Senior LPGA Championship as she goes for a second senior major.

In slightly warmer weather on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, the 55-year-old Davies played bogey-free over the last 11 holes and was at 6-under 138. Brandi Burton had a 66, the best score of the tournament, and was two shots behind.

Silvia Cavalleri (69) and Jane Crafter (71) were three shots behind at 141.

Juli Inkster, who was one shot behind Davies starting the second round, shot 80 to fall 11 shots behind.

''I had a couple of bogeys early on, but I didn't panic,'' Davies said. ''I'm playing with a bit of confidence now and that's good to have going into the final round.''

Davies already won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open this summer at Chicago Golf Club.